During the coronavirus pandemic, sexually transmitted disease cases dropped due to individuals “sexually distancing” and decreased testing and reporting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during the STD Prevention Conference this week.
The CDC said in a roundtable discussion Monday that it estimated that tens of thousands of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea and thousands of syphilis cases have gone undetected due to the lack of testing.
The CDC presentation provided to Fox News attributed the decline in reported sexually transmitted infections due to sexual distancing during stay-at-home orders and social distancing during the pandemic. The CDC added that limited testing for STDs was also due to sexual health clinics shutting their doors or cutting back on in-person visits during the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak in February.
Testing also decreased as STD caseworkers were reassigned to help with the demand, while primary care physicians did not see nonemergency care cases due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the presentation.
The roundtable discussion presented a case study where almost 30% of STD and HIV clinics in St. Louis closed and over 60% of the clinics reduced their services when a stay-at-home order was implemented in the state. During that period, over 40% of condom distribution sites in that region closed and a 45% overall drop in testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea resulted, reaching a low in April, according to the presentation. Testing for those diseases somewhat recovered in April and June as the stay-at-home orders were lifted, the health department study found.
The CDC earlier this month discussed concerns that STD testing could be limited further in the upcoming months due to the limited availability of test kits and lab supplies due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is a current shortage of STI test kits and laboratory supplies, most notably for chlamydia and gonorrhea nucleic acid amplification tests,” the CDC said in new guidelines put into place earlier this month. The guidelines gave health care providers suggestions on how to ration tests if needed and how to prioritize the most at-risk patients.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, rates of STDs were at record highs in the U.S., according to a report from the CDC. Health officials said most sexually transmitted diseases can be treated if detected early but if left untreated can lead to infertility and even be fatal.